I have fond recollections of my mother taking me to storytime every week, climbing downstairs to the windowless basement community room of our local library to the strains of guitar music and gathering around a giant flannel board. Even though times have changed, recent research indicates that the literacy-boosting benefits of library storytime hold true. Besides updating their approaches to meet the needs of diverse kids and caregivers, incorporating technology, and keeping up with great new books, librarians have come up with some amazing fresh takes on the traditional story hour. Check out these examples:
The education world is abuzz with STEAM initiatives, beginning in early childhood, and many libraries are working to bring related opportunities to their smallest patrons. The Boston Public Library system offers “Towering Tots,” which includes a STEM-related read-aloud and building with giant blocks, and “STEAM Stories,” with stories and songs related to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. “STEAM story times at Boston Public Library locations offer children at a young age the opportunity to learn in a supportive, fun environment about key concepts that are a focus in academic settings,” said Farouqua Abuzeit, Youth Services Manager.
Yoga has emerged as a popular library offering as libraries look for ways to add promotion of physical well-being to their long list of positive community impacts. Yoga storytimes match poses with related stories and songs. Librarian and yoga teacher Katie Scherrer explains, “Yoga provides children an opportunity to experience and practice many movements that can help them develop balance, body and spatial awareness, strength and stamina, flexibility, coordination, and control. It provides them the opportunity to move in many ways, including cross-laterally, as they use their bodies to act out stories, express emotions, and move creatively.” All these benefits AND an early literacy boost? That definitely sounds worthy of unrolling a mat!
Drag Queen Story Hour
Promoting positive identity formation and acceptance of others is more relevant now than ever before. Libraries in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and other cities offer read-alouds and activities presented by drag queens in all their finery. Drag Queen Story Hour describes their goal as providing kids with opportunities to, “see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real,” which sounds, well, completely awesome.
Baby Doll Storytime
It isn’t just big city library systems that offer innovative storytimes. Rachel Davis, Youth Services Librarian at Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, developed Baby Doll Story Time after noticing that little ones often attended better to storytime when offered baby dolls to sit on their laps. The program, inspired by Baby Doll Circle Time by Dr. Becky Bailey, invites children to give baby dolls bottles, sing about them, snuggle them during baby-themed read-alouds, and rock them to sleep. Davis observes that, “Toddlers and preschoolers, who otherwise might not sit still for an entire half-hour story time, will do so with a baby doll on their laps … caring for it, and comforting it.” With the importance of emphasizing social-emotional learning getting plenty of attention lately, Davis’s goal for Baby Doll Story Time — to “encourage empathy, self-soothing, and caring behaviors” — seems right on target.
The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is on the rise and many libraries, along with other public spaces for families, are doing their best to adapt programming to better meet the needs of this population. At their Sensory Story Time, the Seattle Public Library system uses a repetitive structure and a visual schedule to help kids know what to expect, uses techniques like movement and tangible props to promote engagement, and limits the group size. Sensory storytimes can be fun — and model inclusivity — for all children but are especially welcoming for families hesitant to attend more traditional storytimes.
Social Justice Storytime
Children are notorious for asking questions about complex topics that are tough to answer simply. Storytimes focused on kid-friendly conversations about social justice are an emerging trend on library calendars. The Boston Public Library partners with the grassroots organization Wee the People to offer a “Little Voices, Big Change” series. Sample themes include, “What is Racism?,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Bridges Not Walls,” and programming incorporates stories, games, hands-on activities, and crafts. Working together towards “Popping Stereotypes” while popping balloons seems like a beneficial way to spend an hour for both our youngest generation and society as a whole.
Does your local library provide creative storytime programming? Share your experiences in the comments section below!